Pomona College seniors Alice Chan, Galvin Cooper and Gabriella Heller have been awarded National Science Foundation (NSF) Graduate Research Fellowships along with seven Pomona alumni. The grants provide an annual stipend of $32,000 for three years and a $12,000 cost-of-education allowance to the institution. Recipients are selected "based on their demonstrated potential for significant achievements in science and engineering."
Alice Chan, a mathematics major from Westford, Mass., will pursue a Ph.D. in mathematics, at UC San Diego. Her NSF proposal, "Reconstruction without Phase and Finite Frame Decomposition," involves applying frame theory to the field of compressed sensing, which studies the problem of reconstructing signals when they are sparse in some domain. This is critical, she says, in areas such as reducing the length of MRI scanning sessions and increasing the power of computational photography.
At Pomona, she has conducted research with Prof. Stephan Garcia and fellow students Luis Garcia German and Amy Shoemaker (both PO'14), which has resulted in the publication "On the matrix equation XA+AX^T=0, II: Type 0-I interactions" in the journal Linear Algebra and its Applications. Her senior thesis focuses on an extension of Kloosterman sums, which comprise a standard tool in analytic number theory.
Cooper Galvin, a chemistry major with a mathematics minor from Anchorage, Alaska, will attend Stanford University for a Ph.D. in biophysics and materials science. His NSF proposal involves a novel large scale energy storage device – an aqueous flow battery, building on work he conducted as a member of a research team at Harvard University last summer. At Harvard, he synthesized some of the molecules used in the first non-metal aqueous flow battery. The team's work was published in the January issue of Nature, "A metal-free organic-inorganic aqueous flow battery."
Galvin has also done computational chemistry work with Pomona post-doctoral lecturer Dr. Lewis E. Johnson '07 and with Dmitrij Rappoport, of Harvard. His senior thesis is titled "Automated organic reaction mechanism generation, including transition state guessing and determination."
Gabriella Heller, a chemistry and mathematics from Chicago, will spend next year at the University of Cambridge, as a Churchill Scholar, earning a Master of Philosophy degree in chemistry and conducting research with Michele Vendruscolo on combining Nuclear Magnetic Resonance (NMR) spectroscopy and computational methods to enable novel atomic-scale description of biomolecular processes. Her NSF proposal focuses on the study of protein dynamics by integrating computational and experimental methods and will enable her to continue the work she will be doing at Cambridge.
Heller is currently working on two theses. For chemistry, she is working with Prof. Matthew Sazinsky on "Fragment Based Lead Discovery of Antibiotic Primase Inhibitors," using crystallography methods to help design a new antibiotic drug against staphylococcus infections. For her math thesis, she is working with Prof. Erica Flapan on "Topological Complexity in Protein Structures," studying knots, links and spatial graphs in the underlying structures of proteins and DNA. At Pomona, she has also worked with Prof. Malkiat Johal, on a wide range of collaborative and independent research projects in biophysical chemistry with a focus on modeling protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions.
Pomona alumni selected to receive NSF Fellowships are:
- Anna Bax '13 will study social sciences – linguistics at UC Santa Barbara,
- Jamie Hall '12 will study social sciences – economics,
- Catherine Pelland '11 will study engineering – mechanical at the University of Virginia,
- James Polizzotti '11 will study engineering – materials at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and
- Nichole Runge '09 will study cognitive psychology at Washington University.